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Why Religious People Are Scared of Atheists

Religious believers commonly attack atheists simply for existing. Do out-of-the-closet atheists -- even polite ones -- challenge attempts at theocracy?

What, exactly, do religious believers want from atheists?

If you follow the atheism debates in op-ed pieces and whatnot, you'll see that critiques of the so-called New Atheist movement are often aimed at our tone. Among the pundits and opinion-makers, atheist writers and activists are typically called out for being offensive, intolerant, disrespectful, extremist, hostile, confrontational, and just generally asshats. The question of whether atheists are, you know, right, typically gets sidestepped in favor of what is apparently the much more compelling question of whether atheists are jerks. And if these op-ed pieces and whatnot were all you knew about the atheist movement and the critiques of it, you might think that atheists were simply being asked to be reasonable, civil, and polite.

But if you follow atheism in the news, you begin to see a very different story.

You begin to see that atheists are regularly criticized -- vilified, even -- simply for existing.

Or, to be more accurate, for existing in the open. For declining to hide our atheism. For coming out.

Case in point: In Bryan/ College Station, Texas, the Brazos Valley Vuvuzela Atheist Marching Band recently marched in the annual Christmas parade. Now, let's be very clear about this: The 18-person marching band didn't march with signs saying "Fuck Your Religion," or "You Know It's A Myth," or even "There's Probably No God -- Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life." They wished people a merry Christmas, and a happy Hanukkah, and a merry Kwanzaa. They played "Jingle Bells" on vuvuzelas. And they carried a banner saying they were atheists.

Which was enough, apparently, to send many Christians into fits. The atheist presence in the Christmas parade created a substantial controversy in the area. One resident interviewed by the local news, Tina Corgey, said, "I spent many years teaching my children to love and respect other people and to love the fact that they were children of God and I don't feel that they should be influenced in any other way especially not at a Christmas parade." She added, "If you have younger children they weren't going to understand but I have older children, a teenager, 8-year-old and they were curious and they asked questions and it was hard for them to believe and understand that there are actually people out there that don't believe in God."

And she was hardly alone. Her sentiments were echoed in many comments on the local news story. Including:

"There was one entry that should not have been in the parade. It was against Christmas."

"We let people make a mockery out of us!!!!! My family and I have participated or watched the parade for the last 25 years, however, this was our last and hopefully other people feel the same way. Why on Earth would we allow Atheist to be in the Parade????"

"You have no idea what this holiday means for those of use who believe in a greater being. You offend me and everyone else."

"They were there to be provocative, plain and simple. No different from a white supremacist group marching in a Juneteenth parade. This group had no business marching at that event. They are a hate group and they should be ashamed."

"It is like the KKK going to a black church saying they are there to bring peace."

"Last I checked, the event was called a CHRISTmas parade. Not a Happy Holidays, not a Merry Hanukkah, or a Jolly Kwanza. If you want a parade to celebrate non-Christian religious beliefs then lobby B/CS for your OWN parade."

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